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Indian Nuclear Capability Data

July 8, 2008
Center for Defense Information

View the information directly on CDI website

Strategic Delivery Systems

Possible Delivery System

Year Deployed

Maximum Range (km)

Launcher Total

Payload (kg)

Warhead Yield (kt)

Notes

Missiles

Prithvi I SS-150

1994

150

75-90

1000

Unknown

Deployed with 333 and 355 Missile Groups. Will be
converted from liquid-fueled to solid-fueled; Army designated

Prithvi III SS-350

Not yet deployed.

350

25

~1000

Unknown

First stage solid-fueled, second stage liquid-fueled

Agni I

2004

700

36

1000

Unknown

Last test-launched July 4, 2004. Reported to have been inducted into the Army’s new 334 Missile Group, but operational status uncertain

Agni II

2004

2,000+

36

1000

200? Boosted-fission warhead

First tested in April 1999; last tested Aug. 29, 2004. Reported to have been inducted into the Army’s new 334 Missile Group, but operational status uncertain

Agni III

Not yet deployed

3000+

-

1500

Unknown

Under development. Last test-launched May 7, 2008

SLBMs

Prithvi III (Sagarika)

Not yet deployed

300+

-

~1000

Unknown

Under development. Last test-launched December 28, 2005

Dhanush (Prithvi II)

Not yet deployed

~350

-

~1000

Unknown

Under development. Naval version of Prithvi II. Last test-launched March 30, 2007

Aircraft

Jaguar IS/IB/ Shamsher

1995

1600

88

4,775

-

Mirage 2000H/ Vajra

1985

1,850– 3,000

36-38

6,300

-

MiG-27 Flogger

1986

390

147

4000

-

Unclear if this aircraft has a nuclear role

Summary of Indian Nuclear Forces:

India is generally estimated to have approximately 50 strategic nuclear warheads. They can be delivered by short-range ballistic missiles and by aircraft.

In 1974, India tested what it dubbed a “peaceful nuclear device.” Nearly 25 years later, India conducted five nuclear tests in May 1998. Many analysts believe that two primary factors drive India's nuclear program: the need to achieve regional balance and ongoing tensions with Pakistan.[1] Despite never having signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the Indian government released a nuclear doctrine in 1999 that committed the country to a “credible minimum deterrence” and a “no-first-use” policy.[2] In addition, it recommended that India's nuclear forces should eventually be based on a triad of aircraft, mobile land-based missiles and sea-based forces.[3] It further stated that India intends, through a combination of redundant systems, mobility, dispersion, and deception, to heighten the survivability of its nuclear arsenal.[4]

India currently has two models of nuclear-capable missiles: the Prithvi and the Agni, each of which has several variants. The Prithvi I and Prithvi III missiles both have ranges of under 500 kilometers (km) and were deployed between 1995 and 2001 (the Prithvi II is not believed to have a nuclear role). The Agni I has a range of around 700 km, but in January 2004, India test fired an Agni II missile (with a range of over 2,000 km)[5] and in 2008, the Agni III was tested with a range of at least 3,000 km.[6] India possesses the technical ability and the resources to construct ICBMs (which require ranges on the order of 9000 km) but has so far apparently not chosen to pursue this option.

India also has several aircraft that could deliver nuclear weapons, though they may require modifications – it is unclear which, if any, can do so in their current configurations. The Mirage 2000H has reportedly been certified for delivery of nuclear gravity bombs, and some Indian Jaguars may also have a nuclear delivery role. Other candidates for nuclear missions include India’s MiG-27s and SU-30MKIs.

The naval component of India’s nuclear forces has encountered technical difficulties – while Delhi leases Russian attack submarines, they are not capable of carrying ballistic missiles.[7] The Advanced Technology Vessel (ATV) program has been underway since 1985, but it has encountered numerous setbacks and has yet to produce a workable underwater missile launch platform. However, comments made by Navy Chief of Staff Adm. Madhvendera Singh at the height of the 2002 Pakistan-India crisis implied the ATV itself might already be operational.[8]

Officially, the Indian navy anticipates that its first nuclear submarine will be launched in 2009 and inducted into regular service in 2010.[9] Additionally, the Indian navy has been developing an SLBM, the Sagarika, about which very little is known.[10] Initially slated for completion in 2005, the program has run into setbacks and it is unknown when the missile will become operational.[11] India is also working on another sea-launched missile, the Dhanush, which is a naval adaptation of the Prithvi II. It has also encountered trouble in development and its status is unclear. With no submarine to launch from, both these weapons use surface ships for test launches. For example, in February 2008, India successfully launched a Sagarika missile from a pontoon modified to simulate a launch from submarine.[12]

India’s military stockpile of fissile material is estimated to contain roughly 500 kilograms (kg) of plutonium and roughly 200 kg of highly enriched uranium (HEU), enough material for around 100 and 15 simple warheads, respectively. [13] Although India’s nuclear weapons primarily use plutonium cores, India has a robust uranium enrichment program and has tested several devices for which HEU may have been desirable.[14] India also possesses substantial civilian stockpiles of fissile materials.

In 2007, U.S. President George W. Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reached a bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement which, among other things, would allow the U.S. to share civilian nuclear technology with India in return for India’s acceptance of certain safeguards and other conditions. Despite being initially approved by Congress in 2006, the agreement is controversial in both countries. Some parties in the Indian Parliament, upon which the current government depends for a majority, oppose the deal as an unacceptable abrogation of Indian sovereignty; in the U.S. Congress there are concerns about setting a precedent for other states which, like India, have tested nuclear weapons but have not signed the NPT.

While the deal would only apply to India’s civilian nuclear program, detractors contend that it would nonetheless free up Indian resources for the country’s nuclear weapons program. The deal’s future is far from clear, given the strong opposition from the Indian Communist party combined with the fact that the International Atomic Energy Agency, U.S. Congress, and the Nuclear Suppliers Group must all approve the deal before it can move forward.[15]

Because India utilizes liquid fuel in its missiles, it is unlikely that it stores their components fully assembled, though some of the Prithvis have solid fuel stages and others may be completely converted to solid fuel. As is the case with Pakistan’s nuclear program, while weapon ranges are more or less known, the yield of each warhead is still unknown.

India probably keeps its nuclear delivery vehicles separate from its warheads. Further deterioration in its relationship with Pakistan could lead to changes in this policy.

Strategic Nuclear Warheads: ~50

Non-strategic Nuclear Weapons: ?

Total Nuclear Warheads: ~50+?

Sources:

“5 Minutes to Midnight.” Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, January/February 2007. http://www.thebulletin.org/minutes-to-midnight

“Agni-II Tested.” The Hindu. Aug. 8, 2004.

“United States-India Energy Security Cooperation Act of 2007.” H. R. 1186. Introduced in the House of Representatives, Feb. 16, 2007.

“Warships in full readiness,” Deccan Herald, Hindustan Times & Rediff, Jan. 17, 2002.

Albright, David, and Basu, Susan. “India Gas Centrifuge Enrichment Program: Growing capacity for Military Purposes.” Institute for Science and International Security, Jan. 18, 2007. p.12. www.isis-online.org/publications/southasia/indiagrowingcapacity.pdf

Cirincione, Joseph, Miriam Rajkumar and Jon B. Wolfsthal. 2005. Deadly Arsenals: Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Threats. 2nd ed. p. 220-37.

Federation of American Scientists. “Indian Missile Programs.” http://www.fas.org/nuke/guide/india/missile/index.html (accessed on March 15, 2007).

Federation of American Scientists. “Indian Nuclear Doctrine.” http://www.fas.org/news/pakistan/1999/CD-20August99.htm (accessed on March 15, 2007).

Federation of American Scientists. 2007. “Nuclear Weapons.” http://www.fas.org/nuke/guide/india/nuke/index.html (accessed on March 15, 2007).

Federation of American Scientists, “Status of World Nuclear Forces,” Strategic Security Blog, http://www.fas.org/programs/ssp/nukes/nukestatus.html (accessed July 1, 2008).

Gill, John H. 2005. “India and Pakistan: A shift in the Military Calculus.” In Military Modernization in an Era of Uncertainty. Series: Strategic Asia 2005-06, edited by Ashley Tellis and Michael Wills, pp. 237-267. The National Bureau of Asian Research, 2005.

GlobalSecurity.org. “India Military Guide.” http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/india/index.html (accessed on March 15, 2007).

Global Security.org. 2005. “Advanced Technology Vessel (ATV).” http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/india/atv.htm (accessed March 15, 2007).

International Panel on Fissile Materials, Global Fissile Materials Report 2006, http://www.fissilematerials.org/ipfm/site_down/gfmr06.pdf

Kristensen, Hans M., Robert S. Norris. “India’s Nuclear Forces 2005.” Nuclear Notebook in Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, September/October 2005. pp. 73-75 http://thebulletin.metapress.com/content/147052n7g76v4733/fulltext.pdf

Kristensen, Hans M., Robert S. Norris. “India’s Nuclear Forces 2007.” Nuclear Notebook in Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, July/August 2007. pp. 74-78

Kyle, Shannon N., Vitaly Fedchenko and Hans M. Kristensen, "World Nuclear Forces," SIPRI Yearbook 2006 : Armaments, Disarmament, and International Security, (Oxford University Press : Oxford, 2006).

Mohanty, Pratap. “India Successfully Tests Missile Able To Hit China.” Space War - Agence France-Presse, April 12, 2007.

Natural Resources Defense Council. “Table of Indian Nuclear Forces 2002 – Notes.” Nov. 25, 2002. http://www.nrdc.org/nuclear/nudb/datab20.asp

Nuclear Threat Initiative. “India Profile.” http://www.nti.org/e_research/profiles/India/index.html (updated September 2006).

Pan, Esther. “The U.S.-India Nuclear Deal.” Council on Foreign Relations http://www.cfr.org/publication/9663 (updated Feb. 24, 2006)

Pattnaik, Soumyajit and Rahul Singh, “Agni III adds teeth to India’s N-deterrence,” Hindustan Times, April 13, 2007.

Rediff India Abroad. “N-capable Agni-III develops snag.” July 9, 2006. http://www.rediff.com/news/2006/jul/09agni.htm

ENDNOTES

[1] John H. Gill. “India and Pakistan: A shift in the Military Calculus,” In Tellis, Ashley and Wills. Military Modernization in an Era of Uncertainty. Series: Strategic Asia 2005-06. (The National Bureau of Asian Research). pp. 241-43

[2] Federation of American Scientists, “Indian Nuclear Doctrine,” http://www.fas.org/news/pakistan/1999/CD-20August99.htm (accessed April 9, 2007); also see Cirincione, Joseph, Miriam Rajkumar and Jon B. Wolfsthal. 2005. Deadly Arsenals: Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Threats. 2nd ed. p. 227.

[3] Ibid

[4] Ibid

[5] India had tested a liquid-fuel version of the short-range Agni in April 1999 and in 2001. See: “Agni-II Tested,” The Hindu, Aug. 8, 2004

[6] T.S. Subramanian and Y. Mallikarjun, “Agni-III Test-Fired Successfully,” The Hindu, May 8, 2008.

[7] “Project 971 Shuka-B Akula Class,” Global Security, http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/india/s-akula.htm

[8] “Warships in full readiness,” Deccan Herald, Hindustan Times & Rediff, Jan. 17, 2002

[9] Sandeep Unnithan, “The Secret Undersea Weapon,” India Today, Jan. 17, 2008. http://indiatoday.digitaltoday.in/indias-secret-undersea-weapon-5.html

[10] Natural Resources Defense Council, “Table of Indian Nuclear Forces 2002 – Notes,” Nov 25, 2002. http://www.nrdc.org/nuclear/nudb/datab20.asp

[11] GlobalSecurity.org. “Advanced Technology Vessel (ATV),” http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/india/atv.htm (accessed April 9, 2007)

[12] T.S. Subramanian, “Sagarika’ missile test-fired successfully,” The Hindu, Feb. 27, 2008

[13] International Panel on Fissile Materials, Global Fissile Materials Report 2006, http://www.fissilematerials.org/ipfm/site_down/gfmr06.pdf

[14] David Albright and Susan Basu, “India Gas Centrifuge Enrichment Program: Growing Capacity for Military Purposes,” Institute for Science and International Security, Jan. 18, 2007.

[15] Campaign for Responsibility in Nuclear Trade, http://www.responsiblenucleartrade.com/about/deal

Author(s): Elliott Becker , Eric Hundman

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